At noon on Tuesday, the parking lot at the Home Video Library in Centennial is completely full — not for the electronics, but rather for the red food cart parked outside. Birrieria PDX, a food cart specializing in saucy braised birria de res, has become a lunch hotspot for people throughout East Portland and Gresham since it opened last month, and every socially distanced picnic table is inhabited by people inhaling birria tacos, cheesy quesabirria, and plates of rice, beans, and hunks of the shredded meat, emerging from their juices like islands in a rust-red ocean.
Daniel Miranda, one of the cart’s four owners, shrugs at the current crowd. “We were extremely busy on Saturday — the line wrapped around the block,” he says. “People were waiting 30, 40 minutes, and our cook is fast; people just wanted to wait.”
Miranda’s birria cart is a family operation — co-owners Lorena Brambila (his wife) and Grecya Miranda (his sister) are at the cart from morning until late, tending to the bubbling pots of birria en caldo; co-owner Ivan Uc, Grecya’s husband, manages the cart’s outdoor seating, running errands and handling catering orders. Making one pot of birria is an eight-hour process, one the Mirandas adopted from their Guadalajaran mother and grandmother. “My mother, Rita, she always cooked birria, since we were kids,” Miranda says. “My grandmother always made it that way, too.”
The cart’s birria, however, comes in any number of preparations outside the standard bowl of birria en caldo, pulling inspiration from the taco trend with Tijuanan roots. The recent quesabirria boom has influenced the menu of the cart, with the namesake Monterey Jack quesadilla stuffed with meat, the crispy-cheesy vampiros, and the softer-shelled spider. The cart goes even further, serving the heavily-Instagrammed instant-noodle-style birria ramen. “It’s definitely a trend,” Grecya Miranda says. “We knew it was going to be a hit.”
However, Daniel Miranda is partial to the birria en caldo, with its deep red provided by chiles like guajillo and ancho. “I used to live in Tijuana, and like, we have to innovate, what we do with the keto tacos, with the caldo ramen,” he says. “I love fried cheese, I’m the most cheesy person... but the (birria) recipe is why these are all good — that family recipe.”
Beyond the cart’s birria, the beverage menu is no afterthought — the cart makes in-house horchata, as well as cucumber-lime-chia and pineapple agua frescas served in cups with chile-salt rims. Photos of the cart’s bright-colored agua frescas, cheesy birria tacos mid-dunk in consome, and that birria ramen have been circulating on Instagram, with captions like “Gets real close to what you can buy in Mexico,” and “Stop what you are doing and go try this.” For Daniel Miranda, though, the reviews that matter to him most aren’t found on Instagram. “The older gentlemen and ladies who come on Sunday mornings, they line up,” he says, “because they know.”
Birrieria PDX is located at 16544 SE Division Street.
• Birrieria PDX [Instagram]
• Birria Ramen Lands in LA [LAT]
• The Bay Area’s Hottest Taco Trend Comes Courtesy of LA, Tijuana, and Instagram [ESF]